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Asylum and Refugee Issues

Page last updated 03/08/16
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Many people in Northern Ireland have never met a refugee or person who is seeking asylum here but they may have been given misleading impressions by what they have read in newspapers and they do not know where to get answers to basic questions. The information included here is designed to help provide a better understanding of asylum in N. Ireland and can also be found in our booklet Refugees in Northern Ireland – Some Basic Facts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q          Who is an asylum seeker?
A          A person who is looking for a safe place outside her/his own country. People seek asylum if they fear persecution in their own country because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, social group or political opinion.

Q          What is our obligation to people seeking asylum?
A          The UK signed the 1951 UN Convention Relating to Refugees and has agreed to allow people to enter the country to apply for asylum here. They have a legal right to be here while their application is considered. Equally, anyone from this country may seek asylum in any other country that has signed the convention.

Q          Who is a refugee?
A          Someone who applies for asylum, and is successful in being granted refugee status. ‘Refugee’ is also sometimes used as a general term for people who have been displaced from their homes through persecution, civil unrest and war.  Read more

Key Contacts

Bryson Intercultural/Migrant Help
Advice and support for people needing to claim asylum.
Contact: Bryson House, 28 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7FE
Tel: (028) 9031 5744

The Refugee Action Group Immigration Detention Helpline
A free and confidential helpline available out-of-hours for anyone detained in Northern Ireland. A trained volunteer will notify the detainee’s family where possible and contact an immigration solicitor who may be able to assist the detainee in challenging his/her detention. Tel: 0800 840 0495

Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS)
This refugee-led group advises and supports refugees and people who are seeking asylum and encourages integration within the local community. For more information visit the NICRAS website
Contact: NICRAS, 143A University Street, Belfast, BT7 1HP   Tel: 028 9024 6699  Email:  nicras@hotmail.co.uk

World Refugee Situation

There are an unprecedented number of refugees in the world today. More than a million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe in 2015, but this is a small percentage of the people who have had to leave their homes. In June 2015 the UN Refugee Agency said that ‘one in every 122 human beings is now either a refugee, internally displaced [in their own country], or seeking asylum’, a total of 65.3 million forcibly displaced people. Read more

Syrian Refugees In Northern Ireland

A People Uprooted
images (6)The civil war in Syria, now in its 5th year, has forced millions of Syrians to flee their homes. The UN Refugee Agency estimate that by the middle of 2015 the conflict had produced almost 12 million people of concern, of which 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria, with a further 4.1 million taking refuge in neighbouring countries. A small percentage of these have fled further, with some coming to Europe. Images of their journeys are shown in the media and there are questions as to whether any arrive in Northern Ireland.  Read more

UK Asylum Statistics

In 2015 there were just 32,414 applications for asylum (excluding 6,464 dependents), up 29% since 2104 but much lower than the 84,130 applications in 2002. The UK figures do not reflect the magnitude of the world situation.

There were 3,043 applications for asylum in the UK in 2015 from separated or unaccompanied children.

The UK is host to less than 1% of the world’s refugees. The UN Refugee Agency has said that some of the poorest countries in the world, in the developing regions, were hosting 86% of refugees in 2015.  Read more